Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Breaking News

Judge Orders ‘Killing Jews’ Ads on New York Buses

(Reuters) — A federal judge on Tuesday ordered New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority to display on its buses a controversial ad that refers to Muslims killing Jews, rejecting the argument that the ad could incite terrorism or imminent violence.

U.S. District Judge John Koeltl in Manhattan said the ad from the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which had previously run in Chicago and San Francisco, was protected speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The ad portrays a menacing man wearing a scarf around his head and face, includes a quotation “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah” attributed to “Hamas MTV,” and then states, “That’s His Jihad. What’s yours?”

Koeltl said he was “sensitive” to the security concerns, but noted that the MTA and Chairman Thomas Prendergast “underestimate the tolerant quality of New Yorkers and overestimate the potential impact of these fleeting advertisements. It strains credulity to believe that New Yorkers would be incited to violence by ads that did not incite residents of Chicago and San Francisco.”

MTA buses and subways are often forums for policy debates. The agency has accepted other ads from the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which is characterized as an anti-Muslim group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Koeltl delayed enforcing his preliminary injunction by 30 days so the MTA could decide whether to appeal.

Adam Lisberg, an MTA spokesman, said: “We are disappointed in the ruling and are reviewing our options.” The ad includes a disclaimer that its display does not imply an MTA endorsement.

The MTA said the ad did not meet standards it adopted in 2012 after a judge, in another lawsuit by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, said its earlier ban on ads that demeaned people based on race or religion violated the First Amendment.

Koeltl, however, said the MTA did not show that the latest ad could prompt imminent violence, noting that none occurred in Chicago and San Francisco, or that New York City should be treated differently because it is a more prominent terrorism target.

David Yerushalmi, a lawyer for the American Freedom Defense Initiative, said the decision follows similar rulings in Washington and Philadelphia.

“There is no question that transit authorities have the right and duty to protect their riders from violence,” Yerushalmi said in a phone interview. “They do not have the right to give terrorists or potential terrorists a ‘heckler’s veto.’”

Engage

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.